Qualcomm’s new scanner can detect fingerprints even through a display

On: June 28, 2017

It’s a noticeable trend in the smartphone space right now that bezels are shrinking and displays are getting bigger. In retrospect, this looks like the right way to design phones but of course a lot of engineering challenges took overcoming in order to reach this milestone. Qualcomm, the biggest phone SoC manufacturer in the world, has announced a new generation of ultrasonic fingerprint scanners. These scanners possess the ability to sense fingerprints even through displays.

Qualcomm entered into the fingerprint space last year by launching the first generation of sensors. These sensors possessed the ability to sense prints through aluminium and glass. However, this new generation of fingerprint sensors take a new leap by adding even displays into the portfolio where aluminum and glass already belong.

The bottom part of the phones usually consist of the fingerprint scanner placed upon the home button. The likes of Samsung Galaxy S8 and some other phones found another way to place the fingerprint scanner on the back. Whereas, some even experimented placing it on the side. However, with this new ultrasonic fingerprint scanners, newer hardware avenues open up for phone manufacturers.

Probably many smartphone makers must have quizzed creating a fingerprint sensor which works under displays. Recently, it was reported that even Apple is facing technical issues while implementing the Touch ID below the display. However, Qualcomm seems to have surmounted this and come up with a fingerprint scanner that actually works under a display without any hassle.

Qualcomm is all set to launch this new generation of fingerprint scanners in the upcoming MWC Shanghai event. After a host of rumours regarding this same application, Qualcomm is finally going to ship something for real. Vivo is launching a new phone in MWC Shanghai which will make use of this amazing technology. Check out this video the company posted sometime back on Twitter:


What are its capabilities?

  1. Can sense fingerprints through OLED displays with a thickness of up to 1200 μm.
  2. Can sense through metal and glass combined thickness of 800 μm and 650 μm respectively.
  3. Can sense through a glass thickness of up to 800 μm.

These are three different combinations which can have huge applications and allow smartphone makers to experiment with new hardware designs. We will definitely see some cool new smartphone designs in the years to come, all thanks to Qualcomm’s engineering efforts.  

What can be the use cases/benefits?

Apart from the obvious use cases, Qualcomm also hints at some other benefits that these new generation of ultrasonic fingerprint scanners will provide to smartphones:

  1. The new sensors now possess the ability to sense heartbeat and blood flow. This will see huge adaptation and help give an impetus to the healthcare industry.
  2. Since it detects blood flow, it will also verify whether the fingerprint belongs to a finger with an active pulse.
  3. These sensors can seamlessly ignore contaminants such as oil, water, sweat, etc. and accurately detect your fingerprint.
  4. They are equipped to support gestures which will help in enhancing accessibility. This feature is already present in some phones.
  5. Phones which are IP68 certified and can be used underwater will benefit from it. The new sensors can be used to wake up the phone and match your fingerprint below water. Currently Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are IP68 certified phones.

This is a huge leap forward when it comes to fingerprint sensors because a single sensor can now sense fingerprint, heartbeat and blood flow.

Scanner compatibility

The second generation of ultra-sonic fingerprint scanners are fully compatible with the newly announced 660 and 630 series of SoC which the company makes. They have also assured that these sensors will be compatible with every chipset they make in the future. This includes everything from the 200 series going up to the 800 series and everything in between. Surprisingly, Qualcomm says that these sensors will also support non-Snapdragon platforms. This will allow other manufacturers to take advantage of this latest technology.

Scope for the future

Qualcomm’s new generation of sensors still lack end-to-end encryption. This can leave it prone to hacks and thus security is a concern. However, they claim that the fingerprint data will be stored in a secure file system. We can also hope for other devices like tablets and smartwatches to come with this technology if it seems worthy and useful to the makers.

This is an amazing breakthrough to happen for smartphones though, one that would revolutionize the design of many upcoming phones. Soon, placing your finger on the display would do much more than just leave smudges on your screen.  

Image credits: Forbes

Aditya Mohanty

Previously co-founded a startup called WordKrowd, an online literature platform, which explains his love for writing and reading. Thinks about startups and technologies all day long, thus got himself to Pricebaba for a stint in writing. Stories, both fictional and real excite him. Other close recipients of love from him include good movies and good food.